By Kris Bayos | Manila Bulletin | March 20, 2015

The government has admitted that manufacturing of new trains for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 has not yet started but maintained that delivery of the prototype unit from China will push through as targeted this August.

Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said a team was sent to China to visit the manufacturing plant of the Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co. Ltd. CNR Group (Dalian) two weeks ago. However, fabrication of the 48 brand-new light rail vehicles (LRVs) for the MRT 3 has not yet commenced, more than a year after Dalian won the P3.8-billion MRT 3 capacity expansion project.

This is because, Abaya said, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the MRT 3 Management still need to review if Dalian’s proposed design will be compliant to the technical requirement of the government before giving the Chinese train supplier to start the manufacturing of the prototype.

“They have yet to finalize their designs that’s why we have consultants onboard,” he said, referring to rolling stock expert Kenneth McQueen and signaling system expert Stephen Deacon who have recently been hired to help speed up the manufacturing and delivery process.

For his part, MRT 3 General Manager Roman Buenafe clarified that there is no delay in the manufacturing process.

“Once they come out with a design, Dalian should submit it to the procuring entity for approval because the technical specifications have to conform to the terms of reference. Once that is approved, then they start manufacturing the prototype,” Buenafe explained, adding that DOTC and MRT 3 management target to review and approve the proposed design in April.

It is not immediately clear if Dalian made a commitment to deliver the prototype in five months time but Abaya warned that the Chinese contractor could face penalties if it could not deliver on the agreed upon time line.

“We are a little concerned so we will be actively monitoring their works. We will send the team to Dalian regularly, hopefully every month. We engaged two international experts to help speed up the process,” he said.

“Our message to Dalian is that any delay will be unacceptable. Our riders have been looking forward to the new trains for a long time. We are reminding you of your contractual obligations to deliver the prototype by the end of August this year,” Abaya added.

The DOTC earlier announced that 10 projects meant to rehabilitate, upgrade and expand the capacity of MRT 3 will be rolled out and implemented until mid 2016 or before the Aquino Administration steps down from power.